This is the first election of the constitutional United States. In 1787, leading politicians among the states met to form a stronger Federal government. Originally, the intention was to amend the Articles of Confederation, but the committee did away with that document, replacing it with a more binding one. The Federalist Papers, authored by Hamilton, Madison and Jay followed to rouse up support for the new government. Anti-Federalist Papers were also drafted and sent around to discourage centralization. However, those in favor of a stronger central government prevailed. (Note: This election took place through the Winter of 1788/1789, which is why it is sometimes called the election of 1788/89.)
The constitution called for an elected president chosen by electors. Each elector was given two votes. General George Washington, the president of the Constitutional Convention, was expected to get one vote from every elector. Therefore, the battle for VP was the primary issue in the first election.
A few states had not yet ratified the Constitution and, therefore, were unable to vote in the election. The most prominent state voided from the election was New York, which meant prominent men such as John Jay and George Clinton would have an uphill battle for the VP spot. North Carolina was a major Southern subtraction. Even with Rhode Island out of the picture, the map favored a New Englander, since Washington was from Virginia and the Vice President could not be from the same state as the president. As such, John Adams is the front runner for the spot.
However, Mr. Adams faces competition from John Jay, Robert H. Harrison, John Rutledge, John Hancock, George Clinton, Samuel Huntington, John Milton, James Armstrong, Benjamin Lincoln and Edward Telfair.
This election allows for many what-if scenarios:
- What if the ancient Benjamin Franklin made a play for the electors first ballots? Even if Franklin doesn’t win, he could take enough votes away from Washington, that a strong VP candidate could get more ballots than Washington, making the VP candidate the President and Washington the VP.
- What if Adams face more New England competition than just Hancock, Huntington and Lincoln? What if his famous cousin Samuel Adams and General Artemas Ward became candidates?
- What if prominent Virginians ran with the idea of becoming VP if Franklin won the presidency? Could Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry or James Madison have any hope at becoming VP?
- What if three prominent Pennsylvanians ran in the election? Imagine rabid anti-Constitutionalist William Maclay, Pro-Federalist financier Robert Morris or the compromising intellectual James Wilson as VP options.
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